Originally written on SeaTown Sports  |  Last updated 10/28/11

The rest of the game preview went up this morning. Let's take a look at the Wildcats, position-by-position.

Wide receiver Juron Criner. Photo credit: Jae C. Hong/AP


  • RECEIVERS: Anyone who has played Arizona this year can tell you first-hand how difficult it is to cover all of their receivers at once, as five different Wildcats have had 100-yard receiving games this year. Twin 6-foot-4, 220-pound targets Juron Criner and Dan Buckner cause all sorts of misery among cornerbacks. Criner may be the best receiver in school history—he was a second-team All-American in 2010 and was aiming for first-team status this year until being slowed by a knee injury from which he is still recovering. The Cats love to get the ball to senior Gino Crump on bubble screens and pick slants—he’s real slippery and can line up inside or outside. Seniors David Roberts and David Douglas each have 118 career receptions, tied for ninth in school history. Once more. Their fourth and fifth targets this year have the ninth-most receptions in the history of the program. That’s depth. Redshirt freshman Austin Hill had 8 catches for 128 yards against Oklahoma State. By comparison, the exceptionally deep Huskies have only three wideouts with over 100 yards for the whole season.
  • QUARTERBACK: All these wideouts and spread offenses and receiving yards need a facilitator, and three-year starter Nick Foles has done a fantastic job. NFL scouts haven’t missed him, and rightly so—he is extremely accurate with a strong arm and outstanding footwork. There’s no excuse for losing Foles underneath Luck, Barkley, Thomas, Tuel and now Price in the Pac-12 quarterback hype machine. Foles and Criner are best friends and seem to have ESP on option routes. Watch Foles’ pump fake on Saturday; he’s made defenders look ridiculous in all three games I’ve watched.
  • OFFENSIVE LINE: The preposterously inexperienced Arizona front five seem to be finally figuring it out. After losing their top seven bodies and the line coach from last year, this year’s bunch of physically prototypical linemen struggled in both creating push for the run game and protecting Foles. Last week, however, Arizona’s unit completely neutralized UCLA’s pass rush and run schemes en route to silly, silly offensive numbers. I suppose we’ll see how much of that was due to UCLA’s ubiquitously abysmal performance come Saturday. Watch for 6-foot-8 freshman tackle Fabbians Ebbele when he pulls into the middle—he had some great seals in those situations last Thursday, springing three different Wildcats running backs.
  • Thunderless lightning is a rare phenomenon, observable only in northwest Venezuela and the Arizona backfield. Greg Nwoko, the crash to Keola Antolin’s flash, was lost for the year after knee surgery, but Antolin has been pretty good without his cacophonous complement. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry without the inflationary assistance of any of the 60-plus-yard jaunts that he’s definitely capable of—his longest run of the season is just 21 yards. Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell likes to empty the backfield with Antolin motioning into a bunch—several of his 14 catches this season have come that way. True freshman Ka’deem Carey has become the goal-line back for the Wildcats and plays much bigger and older than his 190 pounds and 18 years (his 19th birthday is on Sunday) would suggest. Big sophomore h-back Taimi Tutogi (older brother of Washington linebacker Thomas) is a very good blocker but has also somehow accounted for 14 percent of the Wildcats’ offensive touchdowns in just 13 touches this year. (Tutogi will see a lot of little brother on Saturday—Taimi is on offense; Thomas is on defense. Taimi is on punt coverage; Thomas is on punt return. Taimi is on kick return; Thomas is on kickoff.)
  • DEFENSIVE BACKS: It’s probably panic time for the Arizona secondary, as the four suspensions from the UCLA kerfluffle come on top of season-ending injuries to starting free safety Adam Hall and backup cornerback Jonathan McKnight. Starters Shaq Richardson and Jourdon Grandon are suspended for all of Saturday and second-stringers Lyle Brown and Mark Watley are suspended for the first half. This leaves the Wildcats with just seven viable defensive backs for the first half. A rundown of the available players: fifth-year senior cornerback Trevin Wade is an absolute stud and the weakside anchor of the secondary but is less than 100 percent with a nagging shoulder injury. Sophomore Derrick Rainey and true freshman Cortez Johnson will attempt to fill in for Richardson but really haven’t shown much that I’ve seen this year. Fifth-year senior strongside safety Robert Golden is one of the best coverage safeties in the conference and true sophomore Marquis Flowers is a former elite recruit with NFL size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds). Add freshmen Tramayne Bondurant and Josh Robbins—Robbins has yet to record a tackle this year—and that’s all they have. Defend a surgical quarterback with an armory of weapons will be a tough task for just seven defensive backs.
  • DEFENSIVE LINE: Senior defensive ends C.J. Parish and Mohammed Usman have underwhelmed as pass-rushers this year, a big reason why the Wildcats defense has struggled to get off the field. Third-year sophomore tackle Justin Washington was a revelation last year, earning first-team Freshman All-America honors for his 11.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks, but has been slowed by a knee injury and a stomach ailment this year. He’s questionable for Saturday. Three-technique Sione Tuihalamaka has filled in for would-be starter Willie Mobley (ACL tear) all season but somehow has not registered even half of a tackle for loss.
  • LINEBACKERS: Linebacker could have been a great strength for the Wildcats, but returning starter Jake Fischer was lost for the year with spring-game ACL tear. True freshmen Hank Hobson and Rob Hankins have been starting in Fischer’s strongside spot, occasionally giving way to a rover or nickelback depending on the scheme. Returning starters Paul Vassalo and Derek Earls are both in the Pac-12’s top 20 in tackles and tackles for loss.
  • SPECIAL TEAMS: Fairly nondescript. Former walk-on kicker John Bonaro was conference special-teamer of the week last week, mostly for the zillions of extra points he put through against the poor Bruins.


If you're reading this and you aren't fired up for a big game, a) what's wrong with you; b) watch this.

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